All Rights Reserved
At Embrace, veterans are one of the incredibly special groups of
individuals whom we have the honor to serve. In our eyes, the men and women who
have bravely served our country and their families who sacrificed so much to support
them deserve to live out their days without worrying about end of life care. Our goal is to
provide hospice care that will help them live comfortably, with dignity and proper care
until their final day. Providing veterans with high quality, patient focused hospice care is
one way that we can give thanks.
Today, the percentage of individuals who volunteer to serve our country is small, less
than 1%. Fifty plus years ago, during World War II or the wars in Korea and Vietnam,
this wasn’t the case. A much higher percentage of young individuals were drafted into or
volunteered for the military. Those veterans are now entering an age group where they
may require end of life or hospice care, making the need for high quality hospice
providers more important than ever.
Understanding what exactly hospice care is can help you to determine if you or a loved
one qualify. Hospice care is reserved for individuals who are in their final months of life.
It is a way for individuals with terminal illness to continue having their needs met even
when a cure is not feasible. A team of experts provide comprehensive medical care,
pain management, comfort measures, and emotional and spiritual support to make sure
that the individual in care can live and pass away on their terms, even in the face of
As a veteran, hospice care is included in the VA’s standard medical care benefits
package. There are three criteria that veterans must meet in order to qualify for hospice
care. The three hospice criteria for veterans include:
1. A medical diagnosis of a life-limiting disease or illness
2. Treatments or care plan goals that provide comfort rather than a cure
3. A doctor’s assessment that life expectancy is 6 months or less if the disease runs
its usual course
If hospice care is provided to a veteran at a VA hospital or at an organization that has a
contract with the VA, no copay is required. This can help to alleviate some of the stress
for family and friends who wish to provide the best possible care to their loved one. The
hospice experts at the VA and at the organizations who partner with the VA are well
versed in providing individualized, expert care and can help navigate any questions or
concerns you may have. An additional benefit of hospice care for veterans is that it can
be provided in the comfort of their own home, or in an inpatient or outpatient setting.
This allows for flexibility and maximal comfort depending on the living situation of each
individual and their family.
Hospice care can completely transform an individual’s end of life experience and can
help to make the difficult transition for one’s family as smooth as possible. BrightSpring
Health Services is determined to ensure that every veteran has the opportunity to live
and die with dignity. Our mission is to offer support to you and your family in whatever way you need.
When you hear the word “diabetes”, chances are it hits home on some level. It may be a loved one, a parent, a friend, or yourself who is living with this disease. They are just one of 34 million Americans living with a diabetes diagnosis. Another 96 million have prediabetes. Of those 96 million, 80% of them do not know they have prediabetes, highly increasing the likelihood of developing diabetes down the road. The consequences of this disease are high, and the prevalence across our population is increasing. November is American Diabetes Month, a month dedicated to raising awareness about how to prevent diabetes and improving the resources available to those living with it.
There are three different types of diabetes that contribute the most to the diabetes epidemic. They include prediabetes, type 1 diabetes, and type 2 diabetes. Though they are all a bit different from one another, all forms of diabetes are related to insulin and blood sugar levels. Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas and its job is to regulate the levels of glucose, also known as sugar, in your bloodstream.
Type 1 diabetes, also known as “insulin dependent” diabetes, is an autoimmune disorder during which the cells of the pancreas that produce insulin are destroyed. When these cells are destroyed, the body cannot produce insulin. This results in glucose staying in the bloodstream rather than being taken up by the cells in your body. Over time, this causes blood sugar levels to rise without the body having a way to naturally regulate them back down to normal. Individuals with type 1 diabetes are often diagnosed during childhood or adolescence, though it is possible for adults to develop type 1 diabetes. The treatment for type 1 diabetes must involve taking insulin every day because the body cannot make it and checking blood sugar levels regularly throughout the day. Consuming a healthy, balanced diet and partaking in regular exercise should be included in the management of type 1 diabetes to help avoid complications.
Type 2 diabetes, also known as “insulin resistant” diabetes, is caused by the body not producing sufficient amounts of insulin or the body resisting the insulin being produced. In both cases, the body is unable to properly regulate blood sugar levels. The biggest risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes are obesity and high blood pressure. In the past, you would see this type develop most often in adults over 45. In recent years, the number of children and teens developing type 2 diabetes has been increasing as a result of poor nutrition and rise in obesity. Due to the nature of type 2 diabetes, it can be successfully managed through a healthy diet, regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight. In some cases, when lifestyle changes aren’t sufficient, type 2 diabetics must supplement with oral medications and insulin to help control blood sugar levels.
When blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as diabetes, it is called prediabetes. While prediabetes isn’t technically classified as diabetes, it often develops into a full diagnosis of diabetes if no intervention is implemented. Awareness is the key to success here as many individuals may not develop symptoms until it is too late. Lifestyle changes that are implemented by individuals with prediabetes can often prevent or drastically delay the development of type 2 diabetes. These lifestyle changes include following a diet of minimally processed foods and regularly partaking in exercise.
If you or a loved one have already been diagnosed with diabetes or you suspect you may be at risk, schedule an appointment with your doctor to share your concerns and maintain regular checkups. Without proper care, serious complications such as hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), kidney failure and heart disease can occur. Preventing these complications requires adherence to treatment per your doctors’ guidelines, a healthy diet and regular exercise.
Diabetes is widespread across America, but it is not an insignificant diagnosis. This disease must be taken seriously and treated properly in order to avoid complications. Unfortunately, not everyone has equal access to the medical resources and education that makes living a normal and fulfilling life with diabetes possible. Raising awareness and equalizing care is one of the major goals throughout the month of November. We encourage you to take the time this month to share this article with family, friends and loved ones. Encourage those around you to speak up about the risk and prevalence of diabetes in our communities. The more we open up the discussion about diabetes, the more we can band together in order to support our loved ones and improve the health of our community.
Visit The American Diabetes Association to learn more or to offer a donation towards ending diabetes. https://diabetes.org/
Image 1 – https://newatlas.com/medical/type-2-diabetes-protein-beta-cell-protection/
Image 2 – https://www.diabeticwarehouse.org/blogs/articles/diabetes-complications
American Diabetes Association – https://diabetes.org/
CDC – https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/spotlights/diabetes-facts-stats.html
Endocrine Society –
National Institute on Aging – https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/diabetes-older-people
Speare Memorial Hospital -01
World Health Organization – https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/diabetes
It’s time to speak up about breast cancer, and the month of October is dedicated to doing just that. As the most common form of cancer, it’s likely that someone in your life whom you care for deeply has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Given how prevalent breast cancer is and the repercussions it has on individuals and families affected, this month is a time to rally together and raise awareness about it.
In the United States, more women die from breast cancer every year than any other form of cancer. It’s currently estimated that 1 in 8 women in their lifetime will be diagnosed with an invasive form of breast cancer. Two of the greatest risk factors of getting breast cancer are female gender and older age, though men and younger women can get it as well. The statistics are alarming, and a diagnosis can feel daunting and isolating, whether it’s yourself or a loved one or family member who is receiving it. Fortunately, breast cancer research continues to thrive, which has led to improvements in screening processes and treatment success. These improvements have been given some of the credit for the slightly decreased death rate from breast cancer over the past several years. In order to take further advantage of the strides we’ve made in battling breast cancer, we must continue to educate our communities about the screenings and treatments available.
While there is no way to guarantee prevention of breast cancer, it is recommended that all adult women perform a breast self-exam monthly. This is a great way to self-monitor for any changes or abnormalities that may occur in the breast tissue. As you age, this becomes an even more important habit as age is one of the main risk factors. It is important to note that not every growth or lump felt in the breast tissue is a cancerous mass. Some non-cancerous masses are abnormal but do not grow outside of the breast tissue. While these lumps do not innately pose a risk, some of these growths can increase a women’s risk of getting breast cancer down the road. Any abnormality or change in your breast tissue that you notice or feel should be examined by a health professional immediately. Just under half of women diagnosed with breast cancer were diagnosed after noticing a lump during a self-exam, so the importance of this routine cannot be overlooked. In addition to regular self-exams, maintaining a healthy weight through exercise and a nutritious diet is another important way to reduce your risk of breast and other cancers.
Should you receive a diagnosis of breast cancer, take the time to find a team of doctors whom you are comfortable with and trust with your care. This team can include an oncologist, or cancer doctor, a surgical oncologist, a radiologist, a case worker, a registered dietician who specializes in cancer nutrition and possibly several other specialty providers. These individuals will be with you, alongside your personal support system, to make sure you receive the best care available from diagnosis on. Treatments and interventions will differ depending on the type of breast cancer you are diagnosed with and your doctors will help you navigate all of the options and should use their expertise to recommend the best course of action. Make sure you feel comfortable asking questions and engaging in your treatment plan. Your providers have the knowledge and the skill sets to provide excellent care, but it is just as important that you feel included in the decisions being made and prepared for the treatment road ahead.
Whether you are young, old, male, female, part of a high-risk category or not, it is our shared efforts in spreading awareness this month of October and all months following that will successfully raise awareness, education, and resources about breast cancer to every individual diagnosed and every family and friend supporting them. As a society working together, it is within our reach to decrease breast cancer diagnoses within our communities and to improve the outcomes and survival rates of those diagnosed.
American Cancer Society
National Breast Cancer Foundation, INC.
As a survivor of breast cancer, few will understand the struggle you endured, but many acknowledge and honor the strength it took to carry on.
Alongside the relief and celebration that comes with completing treatment and hearing the long-awaited word “remission” may come a host of other emotions. Some of them may not be as positive. You may feel fear of the cancer coming back or anxiety about not seeing your treatment team as often. Surgeries and treatments can alter the way you feel about your body. These emotions are natural after what you’ve been through, and it’s important to know that you’re not alone and that you have resources at your disposal to live your life as fully as possible following recovery.
After completing treatment and entering into recovery, it is important to abide by your doctor’s recommended follow up care. This care often includes checkups every few months for the first several years after treatment. As your cancer-free time increases, the frequency of appointments can begin to decrease. If you had breast-conserving surgery to include a lumpectomy or a partial mastectomy, it is recommended that you get a mammogram 6-12 months after surgery and radiation and continue to get them annually for monitoring. Pelvic exams may also be included in your follow up care as some of the hormone drugs can increase your risk of endometrial or uterine cancer. Another test that may be done, especially if you have gone through menopause, is a bone density scan. Monitoring your bone health will be a priority for your doctor especially if your cancer treatment included drugs that can reduce bone density.
Battling cancer and enduring the challenges that come with treatment can leave you feeling exhausted. It can be challenging to find the energy to keep up with follow up care, knowing that it will be a crucial part of your life as a survivor. Express any concerns or anxiety or overwhelm you are feeling about your continued treatment and monitoring with your doctor. Collaborate with them and let them help you feel more in control when it comes to your checkups. Equally important as your medical team is your support system. Continue to lean on the individuals who supported you through treatment, whether it be family, friends, a loved one, a support group or a therapist. Support systems can often help to shoulder some of the burden when it comes to remembering appointments, driving to procedures, and encouraging you to continue doing the things you love outside of your healthcare.
Every single individual’s experience with surviving breast cancer is unique and special. You will have your own thoughts, feelings, challenges and success that you overcame and that you will continue to experience as you embrace a heightened awareness of your health for the rest of your life. Beyond this, you are an example of hope and strength for others who are fighting their own battle against breast cancer. Continue to spread awareness this month and every other so that we can continue to win more of these battles.
American Cancer Society
With a big initiative to provide education and resources to improve the physical health of more people around the world, the mental health of our society cannot be overlooked in achieving this goal. World Mental Health Day, which falls within Mental Illness Awareness Week, is a dedicated day that is honored globally once a year. While mental illness must be acknowledged and supported 365 days of the year, World Mental Health Day is a dedicated time during which the world comes together to raise awareness, increase support, and decrease the stigma surrounding mental illness. Each year Mental Illness Awareness week focuses on a specific theme, and the theme for 2022 is ‘Make mental health and wellbeing for all a global priority’. In doing so, the health and wellness of our society as a whole can be substantially improved. Mental Illness Awareness week runs from October 2nd through October 6th this year. Several important days during this week include the following:
Tuesday, October 4th – National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding
Thursday, October 6th – National Depression Screening Day
Monday, October 10 – World Mental Health Day
Everyone has mental health. It’s the way we feel inside, good or bad, to include our emotions, feelings, mood and more. While the emphasis of health is usually placed on the physical, mental health has an incredible impact on what we are able to do, ranging from our ability to socialize, go to work, provide for others, and take care of ourselves. It allows us to participate in and contribute to society. Similarly, our mental health can be impacted by countless things. Our work situation, home life, physical health, friends and family, financial state, even our genetics and the way we were raised, or an event that happened many years ago can play a role in determining the state of our mental health. Good mental health supports the way we work, learn, grow and interact with others. When our mental health is good, we are more resilient to the inevitable stresses of life. Even in times of good mental health come moments of sadness, despair, and struggle. These moments are a normal part of life and can even teach us how to overcome things in the future. However, sometimes these situations are too much for us to tackle on our own, and the impact they have on our mental health requires support. No one is too strong or too brave to be immune from these life events. It is better to reach out sooner rather than later when you feel like sadness, despair or negativity are consuming your days and preventing you from living your life so that you can work to restore your mental health.
Anyone, from any age group, race, gender, background or belief system can suffer from mental illness. Sometimes it can be challenging to differentiate between a bad day or a tough month from a mental illness, as there is no official test that can definitively tell us what is happening. Whatever you are feeling though is valid and could ultimately lead to more serious mental health consequences. Your thoughts and feelings should be acknowledged and supported and evaluated by a professional. Varying degrees of mental illness will require varying levels of support and treatment. Consider if you have noticed any of the following signs or symptoms listed below. This list is not comprehensive but does address many of the signs and symptoms that occur for some of the major mental illnesses. If you experience any of these things regularly or consistently, or notice a loved one or friend who may be experiencing them, reach out to a professional.
– Excessive worrying or fear
– Feeling excessively sad or low
– Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning
– Extreme mood changes
– Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
– Avoiding friends and social activities
– Difficulties understanding or relating to other people
– Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy
– Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite
– Changes in sex drive
– Difficulty perceiving reality
– Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior or personality (”lack
of insight” or anosognosia)
– Overuse of substances like alcohol or drugs
– Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach
aches, vague and ongoing “aches and pains”)
– Thinking about suicide
– Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress
– An intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance
The impact that mental health and mental illness have on our society is huge. Consistently, research shows that individuals with mental illness have a shorter lifespan.1 in every 20 adults experience serious mental illness every year, yet only two thirds of those individuals receive treatment. Some of the major mental illnesses that individuals are struggling with in order of prevalence are anxiety disorders, major depressive episodes, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and schizophrenia. As millions of individuals across the globe are directly impacted by a mental illness of their own, just as many are indirectly impacted as they witness a loved one, a friend, a coworker or a neighbor struggling with a mental illness. The impact of mental illness goes beyond the individual it is affecting to interfere with the lives of many around them. Therefore, it cannot be on the individuals alone who struggle with mental illness directly to support and treat themselves. Our communities must band together to support those who need awareness raised and treatments provided.
The stigma that mental illness is a weakness or can be overcome by mental toughness leads to many individuals trying to keep their struggles quiet, ignoring their feelings, or resisting help, which only makes things much worse. Like any physical ailment or chronic illness, mental health must be addressed and treated in order to make recovery possible. This is only one of the many stigmas surrounding mental health. Others include societal stigmas such as viewing individuals with mental illness as violent, dangerous or crazy. Self-stigma, or the beliefs held by individuals with mental illness, can lead to lack of reporting or seeking out treatment out of shame or due to fear of society’s response. In order to decrease societal and self-stigma surrounding mental illness, we must normalize the reality of mental illness and continue to have conversations about it. Increasing discussions and public awareness, as well as making support more accessible to everyone, is crucial in order to increase mental illness reporting and mental illness treatment.
You can help to decrease stigma and raise awareness in your own community! Show your support this year by talking to friends, family members and coworkers about Mental Illness Awareness Week and World Mental Health Day. Post about it on your social media, advocate for improving treatment access for mental illness, and continue to educate yourself on the topics of mental health. Together, we can better support our community!
Image 1 – https://sdgresources.relx.com/special-issues/world-mental-health-day-2021-0
Image 2 – https://www.siouxcenterhealth.org/latest-news-and-blog/tag/mental-illness-awareness-week/
American Psychiatric Association – https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/stigma-and-discrimination
National Alliance on Mental Illness – https://www.nami.org/get-involved/awareness-events/mental-illness-awareness-week
Rethink Mental Illness – https://www.rethink.org/get-involved/awareness-days-and-events/world-mental-health-day/
Mental Health Foundation – https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/our-work/public-engagement/world-mental-health-day
Everyone knows about heart attacks… but have you ever heard of atrial fibrillation? Despite being the most common heart arrhythmia (meaning irregular heartbeat) that is medically treated and being the cause for 1 in 7 strokes, most people aren’t familiar with atrial fibrillation. Surveys have revealed that even those who are aware of it often don’t consider it a serious medical condition. Education is key here, as leaving atrial fibrillation untreated doubles the risk of heart-related deaths and increases the risk of having a stroke significantly. It is estimated that by 2030, about 12.1 million people living in America will have a diagnosis of AFib. Considering how high that number is, it’s time to start paying attention to what it is and how you can mitigate yours and your loved ones’ risk factors!
So what is atrial fibrillation? Atrial fibrillation, abbreviated AFib, is an abnormal heart rhythm during which the top chambers of your heart, called your atria, quiver rather than beat, leading to inefficient movement of blood through your heart. Given the inefficient contraction of the heart, individuals with AFib are at a higher risk for clots. The higher risk of clotting and the decreased ability of the heart to pump blood efficiently is what leads to an increased risk of further heart conditions and stroke should a clot form and travel to the brain.
While some individuals with AFib might not know they have it and may experience no symptoms at all, others could experience a number of various symptoms. Pay attention to the symptoms and take action. Consider scheduling an appointment with your doctor if you or a loved one are experiencing any of the following:
In addition to symptom monitoring, there are a number of risk factors to be aware of related to AFib. Considering the risk of stroke and heart disease increases significantly with AFib, mitigating the risk factors of AFib is crucial. Risk factors include:
If any of these risk factors apply to you or a loved one, consider if your risk factors are modifiable, meaning you have more control over reducing how much of a risk they pose. Focus on lowering your blood pressure, losing weight if appropriate, reducing or eliminating alcohol intake and quitting smoking. Consuming whole, natural foods when possible, incorporating exercise and purposeful movement every day, and staying hydrated can go a long way in preserving your health!
If you have already been diagnosed with AFib, it is important to continue to mitigate as many risk factors as you can using the guidance above, in addition to seeking proper medical treatment for your condition. Lifestyle changes, even after being diagnosed with AFib, can greatly decrease the severity and frequency of your symptoms. These lifestyle changes include cutting back on alcohol, reducing caffeine, quitting smoking, exercising regularly, eating a nutrient rich diet, losing weight if required and lowering your blood pressure. When prescribed medications for AFib, especially blood thinners to reduce the risk of clots, it is imperative that you follow the guidance of your doctor and stay consistent with the treatment.
Given that AFib is a chronic condition, meaning it doesn’t go away, it is likely that you will be on medication to manage it for the rest of your life. This can be scary and anxiety inducing if you don’t understand your medications or don’t have a plan to stay on track. Meet with your doctor and be sure to understand what medications you are taking, why you are taking them, how long you will be taking them for and what side effects to look out for. You deserve to understand and feel comfortable with your treatment, so be sure to collaborate with your medical team and find support from your loved ones.
Atrial fibrillation – if it’s not taken seriously, it could cause serious problems!
Know the symptoms, schedule regular visits with your doctors, and practice a healthy lifestyle to reduce your risk!
Image 1 – https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/atrial_fibrillation.htm
Image 2 – https://www.mcrmedical.com/blog/aha-2020-guidelines/
Heart Foundation –
CDC – https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/atrial_fibrillation.htm
American Heart Association –
Think back through your lifetime, and you can likely recall a time during which you experienced an infection. Virtually everyone has. We often brush off the minor ones, such as a small cut from gardening or a burn from cooking dinner, either of which could become infected. We also occasionally are burdened with the more serious ones, like appendicitis or pneumonia, which tend to force our attention. The truth is though, almost every infection can lead to sepsis, even the ones that start off as seemingly no big deal. In recognizing how common infections are, it is imperative that we understand what sepsis is, who is susceptible, and how it can be prevented and treated in order to save lives.
Sepsis occurs when the body begins to damage its own tissues in response to an already existing infection. This can become life-threatening as the inflammation becomes widespread and blood clotting reduces blood flow. When sepsis is prolonged without treatment, it turns into septic shock. Septic shock is characterized by a severe drop in blood pressure leading to organ damage and death.
Although anyone can get sepsis (remember, it starts with an infection, and almost everyone gets one, if not many, infections throughout their lifetime), there are certain populations that are more susceptible. These populations include the very old (sixty-five years and above), the very young, pregnant women, patients being hospitalized, and individuals with pre-existing infections and medical conditions. These individuals already have compromised or altered immune systems, making it much harder for the body to fight off infections, even ones that may seem minor. The inability to fight off the initial infection leads to widespread inflammation and blood clotting.
Though serious and frightening, sepsis is not rare. Approximately 1.7 million Americans are diagnosed with sepsis yearly. Roughly 30% of individuals diagnosed with sepsis do not survive. One in three patients in the hospital who acquire sepsis die. Though sepsis requires immediate medical care, the infection that causes sepsis starts outside of the hospital in nearly 87% of cases.
Because infections that develop into sepsis often start outside of the hospital, it is important to recognize which ones have the potential to do so and what the best prevention measures are. Sepsis is most commonly caused by bacterial infections, but can also result from fungal, viral or parasitic infections. Common types of infections that lead to sepsis include infections of the abdomen, such as appendicitis or peritonitis, infections of the central nervous system, infections of the lungs, such as pneumonia, infections of the skin, and infections of the urinary tract, such as urinary tract infections (UTIs). Some of these infections are harder to recognize than others. General sepsis prevention measures to practice at all times include good hand hygiene, keeping cuts, wounds and burns clean, staying up to date on recommended vaccines, seeking routine medical care, especially for chronic conditions, and seeking medical support for suspected infections, especially if you or a loved one fall into one of the susceptible populations.
Though prevention is key, signs and symptoms of sepsis are important to recognize so you can seek immediate treatment should you experience them. They include high heart rate and low blood pressure, fever or hypothermia (low body temperature), shaking, chills, clammy skin, disorientation or confusion, and hyperventilation (fast breathing) or shortness of breath. Quick diagnosis and treatment is crucial for improving survival rates, so these signs and symptoms must be taken seriously and addressed immediately. If you or a loved one experience any of these symptoms, find in-person medical treatment or at a minimum, call your doctor with your concerns for further guidance.
Infections are common and must be taken seriously due to the risk of sepsis. Remember to practice your prevention measures and be diligent about seeking treatment should you suspect you are experiencing symptoms that could point to sepsis.
Image 1: https://www.cdc.gov/sepsis/what-is-sepsis.html
Cleveland Clinic: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/12361-sepsis
Dementia is a broad term, classifying a number of disorders that all impair cognition, thinking skills, behaviors, social skills and relationships in different ways. General signs and symptoms of dementia include trouble remembering things that just happened or happened recently, regularly misplacing everyday items like a wallet or keys, trouble planning meals or remembering to eat, forgetting to pay bills, difficulty remembering how to get to familiar places and missing scheduled appointments to name a few. If you or a loved one are experiencing any of these symptoms or similar, it is important that you notify someone and plan to see your doctor immediately. Dementia tends to progress over time, with symptoms starting as mild and gradually getting worse. Early diagnosis can maximize available treatment options and potentially open the door to inclusion in clinical trials. Considering disorders with dementia symptoms affect memory and cognition, it may be difficult for an individual to recognize these symptoms in themselves. Family members and friends play a crucial role in noticing changes and raising awareness about potential cognitive disorders.
Early detection allows doctors to determine what the cause of an individual’s cognitive deficit is. If diagnosed with dementia, a doctor can classify which type of dementia an individual has, which can help individuals and their loved ones better understand their disease as well as appropriately plan for treatment.
Included within the classification of dementia is Alzheimer’s, which is the most common form of dementia and accounts for 60-80% of all cases. It is important to note that Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging, though age is the greatest known risk factor for individuals who develop Alzheimer’s. Most individuals who are diagnosed are 65 years of age and above, with early-onset or younger-onset Alzheimer’s referring to individuals who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s before the age of 65. Other risk factors include genetics, family history, and risk factors classified as “other”. These include past head injury and the overall health of one’s aging process. While many of these are non-modifiable risk factors, such as aging, genetics and family history, you can facilitate healthy aging by eating a nutritious diet, getting regular exercise, avoiding smoking and alcohol, and visiting your doctor regularly.
Alzheimer’s is due to physical changes in the brain. Current research has led scientists to understand that a part of the brain isn’t working properly in individuals with Alzheimer’s, which causes atrophy or shrinkage and death of brain cells. Though it has not yet been identified where the damage begins, research has shown that two types of proteins called plaques and tangles are responsible for much of the brain cell damage and death. Over time, more and more cells shrink and die, leading to irreversible changes in the brain.
The initial changes to the brain begin before any signs and symptoms become present, so it is important to be able to identify early potential symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Early signs and symptoms include forgetting recent conversations and events, misplacing items, forgetting names of common places and objects, repeating questions, poor judgment, difficulty making decisions, isolation from family or friends, and becoming increasingly resistant to change.
Middle-stage symptoms show worsening memory problems. This includes difficulty remembering the names of people they know and struggling to recognize friends and family. Other symptoms at this stage may include getting lost or not knowing what time of day it is, obsessive and repetitive behavior, delusions and paranoia, problems with speech and language, disturbed sleep, and mood changes. Ultimately, in the end stages of Alzheimer’s, symptoms will become so severe that individuals will become totally dependent on their caretaker. While many things may cause memory or cognitive impairment and the early signs of Alzheimer’s may appear unassuming, it is important to contact your doctor if you are experiencing any dementia-like symptoms.
While there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, there are several medications that can slow disease progression and aid in symptom management, such as reducing depression and anxiety. In addition to medication management, facilitating a healthy lifestyle can significantly improve an individual’s lifespan and quality of life with this disease. Consider incorporating regular exercise and eating a diet consisting of less processed foods, while adding in more fresh fruits and vegetables. Reduce or eliminate smoking and alcohol consumption. Spend time with family and friends and take part in social activities and hobbies that inspire joy and encourage engagement with others. If you are taking care of a loved one with Alzheimer’s, try to encourage them to partake in these lifestyle behaviors. In conjunction with current treatments, the quest to better understand Alzheimer’s and ultimately find a cure is at the forefront of biomedical research.
The challenge of being the loved one or family member of someone diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is not overlooked. If you are a caretaker, make sure you are taking your own health and wellness into consideration. Find individuals that can help with care and consider joining a support group of individuals that you can talk to about your situation.
If you need help, contact the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Helpline: 800-272-3900
Image 1 – https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia
Image 2 –
Image 3 – https://mind.help/topic/alzheimers/
Alzheimer’s Association – https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia
American Brain Foundation –
NHS – https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/alzheimers-disease/symptoms/
Mayo Clinic –
In today’s day and age, it’s highly likely that you, a loved one, a family member, a friend, a neighbor or a coworker are dealing with chronic pain – and you’re by no means alone. It’s estimated that over 50 million Americans are affected by chronic pain, and over 20 million are affected by high-impact chronic pain, meaning it interferes with their life and work on a daily basis. As pain becomes increasingly widespread to the point that many individuals treat chronic aches and pains as the norm, it must be addressed.
September is Pain Awareness Month, a month dedicated to raising awareness about the prevalence of pain and pain management. Given that the prevalence of pain increases with age, a particularly important community of individuals who require proper pain management is individuals under hospice care, or end of life care.
As individuals and their families make the decision to embrace hospice care, the concern of pain and discomfort that often accompanies end-stage disease is among the top. Hospice care is a service that is centered around providing your loved one, family member or friend maximal comfort as they near the end of their life. Pain management is a key component of hospice care, ensuring that individuals are free from pain, which provides them with not only physical, but also mental, relief.
Despite the great potential and aid that hospice provides, a recent study revealed that upwards of 60% of individuals in hospice care still deal with pain, and that one third of the individuals from a collection of studies rated their pain as moderate or severe. Unresolved pain means that somewhere in the system, there are interferences with proper pain management measures. These barriers may come from the family and patient, or they may come from the healthcare providers, or a combination of both in some cases. Several things that may impede pain management from the side of the family includes denial of pain as a means of protection from acknowledging end of life, acceptance that pain is just part of the disease and can’t be resolved, fear of addiction, cognitive restrictions, or feeling a need to be “brave”. From the healthcare providers’ side, barriers include poor pain assessments, not recognizing the global nature of pain, fear of addiction, fear of legal issues, or fear of doing harm to name a few. Any number of these barriers can result in mismanaged pain and discomfort in the patient. Managing and controlling pain lends an impactful hand in making sure your loved one’s end of life remains high quality. It is imperative that you are aware of these barriers to pain relief, so that they can be addressed and reduced.
Pain management in hospice comes in many forms. Hospice care is provided by a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals, to include doctors, nurses, pharmacists, spiritual counselors, social workers, bereavement specialists, and other special support. Together, these professionals can collaborate and devise an individualized pain plan to facilitate comfort within an individual’s own home. While doctors and pharmacists can provide medications to alleviate physical pain, other key members of the hospice team can address other areas in an individual’s life that inspire comfort on a deeper level. Pain goes beyond just the physical mechanism, and individuals experiencing high levels of pain can often benefit from an all-encompassing approach to relief. This includes providing spiritual support and a professional who can assist in acceptance and grief. Taking a multidimensional approach to pain management is an incredibly effective way of reducing pain while increasing quality of life.
When discussing physical pain, there are several important factors to remember. Everyone’s pain threshold is different and cannot be judged by an outsider. All pain deserves to be treated and relieved. Consider using a 1-10 scale to understand your loved one’s pain – with 1 being no pain at all and 10 being the worst pain they have ever experienced. Pain should be treated immediately, as delaying treatment only makes the pain worse. Finally, while a fear of addiction is common when it comes to pain management, it is not likely to occur when medications are used properly under the supervision of healthcare providers.
Understanding the benefit that pain management has on an individual’s quality of life towards the end and the prevalence of pain in older individuals in America, it is crucial to stay vigilant against the barriers that may interfere with pain management. Be sure to get involved with your loved one’s hospice care and include yourself in the planning process. You and your loved one are a vital part of the interdisciplinary team.
Image 1 – https://anest.ufl.edu/2020/09/08/september-is-pain-awareness-month/
Image 2 – https://www.ecommunity.com/services/post-acute-care/community-hospice
CDC – https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6736a1.htm#:~:text=September%20is%20Pain%20Awareness%20Month,national%20action%20to%20address%20pain
International Association for the Study of Pain – https://www.iasp-pain.org/advocacy/pain-awareness-month/
American Society for Pain Management http://www.aspmn.org/Documents/Position%20Statements/Pain%20Management%20at%20the%20End%20of%20Life%202017.pdf
Johns Hopkins Medicine – https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/palliative-care-methods-for-controlling-pain
Mayo Clinic – https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/end-of-life/in-depth/hospice-care/art-20048050#:~:text=What%20is%20hospice%20care%3F,psychological%2C%20social%20and%20spiritual%20needs
Stress. Something most of us are probably a little more familiar with than we’d like to be. Whether it comes from scrambling to meet deadlines, financial distress, family feuds, social dynamics, or in the form of something else entirely, you can probably name five things that are stressing you out at this very moment. And that’s okay! Stress is normal – so long as it’s an amount of stress that doesn’t interfere with you being able to go about your day. We know what stress is and we know we have stress… but do we know how to manage it so that it doesn’t become dangerous?
The American Institute of Stress conducts a national poll every year measuring the levels of stress in America. Considering the pandemic and the toll it has taken on the world, it is not surprising to find out that stress levels are on the rise according to the results of the poll. Similarly, the American Psychology Association conducts an annual survey of stress levels across the United States and has found comparable results. Some of the top contenders for causing stress were the increasing cost of everyday living such as gas, groceries, and electricity, as well as the current state of the world and personal finances. Sound familiar? Most likely. If you are anything like the average American, these causes of stress are pretty relatable. Not to mention, the age of retirement is continuing to increase as we see people working for longer and longer, which results in these major stressors continuing to have a big impact on our elderly population. Stress has increasingly woven itself into much of our community and is threatening to cause lasting damage to our society.
While stress is normal and can even be an effective motivator when experienced in short, appropriate amounts (think of the clarity you get from a 45-minute workout), chronic stress can have tremendously negative effects on the body and mind. When experienced over a long period of time, stress and the coping mechanisms that often accompany it, can perpetuate disease and make recovery much harder. Managing and controlling stress levels can be crucial in maintaining health and well-being.
Although reading all of this might make your stress levels feel even higher, don’t panic! Fortunately, you have the ability to implement some strategies that have been shown to decrease stress levels to a tolerable, beneficial amount. The following domains are impactful areas of people’s lives that can be fostered to reduce stress if implemented properly.
This can look very different person to person. Physical activity has been proven to improve mood and decrease stress levels. Movement ranges from walking your dog to playing recreational sports with friends to hitting the gym hard with your headphones and zoning everyone else out. Find a way to move your body every day that you look forward to doing and that brings you joy.
Sleep is the only time that your brain truly recovers. In order to properly manage your mood and your stress levels, you must prioritize getting enough sleep. The recommended amount of sleep for adults is 7-9 hours. Try creating a “sleep routine” where you establish habits that you practice each night before settling down for bed. This can include dimming the lights in your house, limiting screen time, lighting a candle, or anything else that relaxes you and prepares your body and mind for rest. Many people also find forms of meditation to be extremely beneficial in aiding relaxation and recovery.
What we eat dictates in large part how we feel. A diet made up of skipped breakfasts, meals on the run, and processed foods leaves us feeling low in energy, irritable, and unprepared to handle the regular stressors of life. Aim to eat a varied diet of whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, complex carbohydrates such as beans, sweet potatoes, and whole grains. To complement a proper diet, drink lots of water to keep your body hydrated and functioning properly.
Do the things you love! It sounds simple, but we rarely leave ourselves time for the people and activities that we love. Spending time every day doing an activity that makes you happy can help to reduce stress by breaking up your day and providing distraction and satisfaction. Surrounding yourself with people who love you is a good reminder that you are supported and can take on the challenges of your day-to-day life. Go to community gatherings, call your friends and family, take classes – stay connected!
Consider these areas above in relation to your own life and think about where you can grow to better buffer your stress. To better assess your own stress levels so you can begin taking action to manage them, visit https://www.stress.org/self-assessment!
Image 1 – https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-matters-most/201701/10-new-strategies-stressmanagement
Image 2 – https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-to-relieve-stress/
Sleep Foundation – https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need
Social Security – https://www.ssa.gov/pressoffice/IncRetAge.html
The American Institute of Stress – https://www.stress.org/self-assessment
American Psychology Association – https://www.apa.org/topics/stress/health